Alignment Charts (also known as Character Alignments) refer to images presenting different categorized subjects -- usually nine -- in a manner that strongly resembles Demotivational Posters. Images within alignment charts usually show characters from a particular subculture (with either a quote or a reasoning below the title of the character's alignment to reflect why they are in that position), but the chart manages to reach levels of irony that reaction images, inanimate objects, and even food can be grouped and categorized.
The concept of character alignment as it is typically viewed comes from the game Dungeons and Dragons released on 1974, wherein players were able to create their very own characters, customizing a variety of different aspects. One of these aspects is the alignment of the character, which basically indicated whether your character was good or evil and whether he followed the law or not.
The system begun operating on two axis by the 1977 release of Dungeons and Dragons, one consisting of "Lawful", "Neutral", and "Chaotic", and the other of "Good", "Neutral", and "Evil"; you would combine one of the traits of the first axis with one of the traits of the other, thus resulting in alignments such as "Lawful Good" or "Chaotic Evil", with nine possible alignments in total.
5×5 Alignment Charts
5×5 Alignment Charts were never designed by the official game. Instead, the additional categories for both axis -- social and rebel; and moral and impure respectively -- are products from the internet. The earliest known instances of a 5×5 Alignment Chart being used dates back to June 5, 2011, when the DeviantArt account DoASpotCheck uploaded their 5 by 5 Alignment Chart comprised of different characters from various subcultures that they feel epitomizes each category.
The concept has been implemented by fans in other works of fiction once it has gained traction. The practice of categorizing subjects in forums and image boards has often brought much debate and criticism due to disagreements from all sides.
Alignment as a Meme
This all becomes a meme with the practice of taking images of characters (or concepts, or a variety of other things) and (usually in the form of a demotivational poster) labeling them as one of the nine alignments. This is then expanded upon by editing together such images (usually following a theme) into a chart, thus giving a representation of the conventional nine alignments -- 5×5 charts with a total of 25 alignments exist. Images dealing with just one of the alignments, or just with the subject of alignment itself, also exist. For example, on July 23rd, 2017, Twitter user @tinysubversions posted an alignment chart of Dungeons and Dragons alignments that gained over 2,000 retweets and 3,800 likes (shown below, left). Another popular joke version was posted on August 10th of that year by @aurelianrabbit which made each space on the chart a way to store bread. The tweet gained over 25,000 retweets and 59,000 likes (shown below, right).
As for the actual origins of this practice, things aren't very clear, but many demotivationals exist. Such comparisons have been made since the first release of Dungeons and Dragons, though it's possible that the book Complete Scoundrel, published in 2007, may have popularized the concept.
Many decades after the concept was made famous, Alignment Charts remain a popular subject for discussion and deviation in online communities. By 2012 a crude template for the alignment chart was made available on Polyvore by user ellerigby13. 74 deviations were produced from this template. A subreddit with 1,537 readers exists that showcases alignment charts submitted by users. On DeviantArt, there is a considerably large number of around 34,000 deviations under the tag "character alignment." A Pinterest gallery dedicated to collecting Alignment Charts has gained 103 followers.